Could a president lift the term limit?

Can Donald Trump still pardon himself?

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report suggests that Donald Trump may have been guilty of abuse of office during his four-year tenure. There are also possible tax offenses and misuse of campaign funds in the room - Trump is immune to investigations into these points, however, as President. As long as he's still in office. But can the head of state pardon himself as a precaution?

To anticipate: It is very controversial, but not for the incumbent president - because he certainly thinks that he can pardon himself. He made it clear in a tweet in 2018. But the opinions of the experts differ. One thing is certain: never before has a president tried to give himself absolution for possible crimes during his term of office. Most recently, a president was granted a pardon in the person of Richard Nixon. But it wasn't he who signed it himself, it was his successor in office, Gerald Ford.

Far-reaching rights

In several US media there is already speculation as to whether and in what form Donald Trump could pronounce his self-pardon. In principle, the founding fathers of the United States granted the US president extensive pardon rights. They assumed the head of state would use them wisely. Article II of the US Constitution states that the President "shall have the power to grant suspensions and pardons for crimes against the United States, excluding impeachments".

A 1915 ruling by the Supreme Court suggests that self-pardon is tantamount to admission of guilt. That would in principle help a renewed impeachment proceedings against Trump, because he would admit to having committed crimes during his term in office. But it is questionable whether the Democrats would initiate such a process again if he has already been voted out. Unlikely.

Charge questionable

So a possible impeachment would no longer be a deterrent for Trump, and he could try to pardon himself. It is also unclear who could go to court against such a move by the US President. The case would also almost certainly end up in the Supreme Court - where the Conservatives have a majority of six to three.

In principle, the experts assume that such a procedure would likely be controversial for a long time. In order to actually find out whether the president can pardon himself, he would have to do it - and the matter would have to be judged out. A future President Joe Biden and his attorney general would also have to bring charges against Trump at all. And whether his crimes are so serious that Biden risks another division of the country with an indictment is more than questionable.

Not for federal offenses

According to experts, one of the most important principles of Anglo-American law is that you cannot be your own judge. That would speak against Trump being able to pardon himself.

Also, a US presidential pardon applies only to federal crimes. State-level charges would not be affected. And on this, the District Attorney of Manhattan, Cyrus Vance, for example, is currently preparing an indictment against Trump: for fraud and tax offenses. (Bianca Blei, 11/11/2020)